Hospitalist work schedules have been the subject of much reporting – and recent research. Studies have shown that control over work hours and schedule flexibility are predictors of clinicians’ career satisfaction and burnout, factors linked to quality of patient care and retention.
Starting in January 2017, an academic hospital medicine group at the University of Colorado at Denver, Aurora, undertook a scheduling redesign using improvement methodology, combined with purchased scheduling software. Tyler Anstett, DO, a hospitalist and assistant professor at the university, and colleagues presented the results in an abstract published during the SHM 2019 annual conference last March.
“We wrote this abstract as a report of the work that we did over several years in our hospital medicine group to improve hospitalist satisfaction with their schedules,” said Dr. Anstett. “We identified that, despite not following the traditional seven-on, seven-off model and 100% fulfillment of individual schedule requests, the majority of clinicians were dissatisfied with the scheduling process and their overall clinical schedules. Further, building these complex, individualized schedules resulted in a heavy administrative burden. We strove to provide better alignment of schedule satisfaction and the administrative burden of incorporating individualized schedule requests.”
Prior to January 2017, service stretches had ranged from 5 to 9 days, and there were few limits on time-off requests.
“Through sequential interventions, we standardized service stretches to 7 days (Tuesday-Monday), introduced a limited number of guaranteed 7-day time-off requests (Tuesday-Monday), and added a limited number of nonguaranteed 3-day flexible time-off requests,” according to the authors. “This simplification improved the automation of the scheduling software, which increased the schedule release lead time to an average of 16 weeks. Further, despite standardizing service stretches to 7 days and limiting time-off requests, physicians surveyed reported improved satisfaction with both their scheduling process (34% of participants ‘satisfied’ in 2017 to 67% in 2018) and their overall clinical schedules (50% of participants ‘satisfied’ in 2017 to 75% in 2018).”So counterintuitively, creating individualized schedules may not result in improved satisfaction and likely results in heavy administrative burden, Dr. Anstett said. “Standardization of schedule creation with allowance of a ‘free-market’ system, allowing clinicians to self-individualize their schedules may also result in less administrative burden and improved satisfaction.”
1. Anstett T et al. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple … Schedules): How Standardization and Simplification Can Improve Scheduling and Physician Satisfaction. SHM 2019, Abstract 112. Accessed June 4, 2019.